Hora dancers to seek place in record book

Hora dancers to seek
place in record book

LAKEWOOD — Thousands of people dancing the hora will be trying to step into the Guinness Book of Records this fall at the Garden State Jewish Festival.

Organizers of the festival — which will be held from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Nov. 2 at First Energy Park — have gotten the go-ahead from Guinness to try to break the record of 6,748 people participating in the largest circle dance, according to a press release.

Event organizers are expecting thousands of people to come to the Lakewood BlueClaws stadium and they hope 7,000 people will dance the hora at 2 p.m. to set a new record.

The festival will offer a day of klezmer music, Jewish foods and shopping opportunities. More than 40 Israeli vendors have been invited to join 15 American counterparts to sell original art, hand-crafted gifts and unique jewelry. There will be more than 10 Israeli jewelers offering unique designs in silver, gold and semiprecious and precious stones. There also will be traditional Judaica crafts and religious items.

The festival is the largest Jewish ethnic celebration ever held in Ocean County, according to the press release. Dr. Allen Morgan, an infertility specialist from Dover Township, said he is hoping to make the festival an annual event for both Jews and non-Jews.

"Since being Jewish is not only a religion, but also an ancient culture, this festival is open to anyone interested in tasting different types of food and experiencing the colorful history of the Jewish people in just a short few hours," Morgan said.

Morgan and his Israeli-born wife, Hagit, envisioned the festival more than two years ago, after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks and after attending a Greek ethnic festival. Morgan has been building support and organizing the Jewish event since then.

"We want to share our Jewish culture in a festival atmosphere and invite the community," said Jay Gordon, a psychologist from Dover Township and one of the festival organizers.

The Jewish Federation of Ocean County is sponsoring the festival. Other organizers are Sharon Birman and Lauren Gordon, entertainment; Dr. Mark Silverstein and Ronen Rotem, food; Hagit Morgan and Joanne Babcock, vendors; Lynette Whiteman, volunteers; and Mitch Ehrlich, public relations and sponsors. The Ocean County Sheriff’s Department and the Lakewood Police Department are providing security.

Morgan said that to qualify for the Guinness record, two independent observers of standing in the community must be present. Festival organizers have three: state Sen. Robert Singer of Lakewood (R-Ocean), Lakewood Mayor Marta Harrison and Jackson Mayor Mike Kafton have agreed to be official monitors. Guinness also requires that a turnstile system be set up to give an accurate head count; that participants dance at least five minutes each; and that participants know how to dance the hora.

All of the Guinness requirements will be met, Morgan said, including a practice dance before the main event for those who are not familiar with the steps.

In the meantime, those who want to become one for the record books are asked to register at the Internet Web site www.bighora.com. Registration also will be taken the day of the event, but preregistration is requested and preferred to get a head count for the dance.

The festival will be held rain or shine. Admission is $3 for adults and $2 for seniors and children. For more information about the giant hora dance or any aspect of the festival, call the Jewish federation at (732) 363-1519.